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Indiana State Library Displays Lincoln Tribute Items

Inside the Ohio Street entrance of the Indiana State Library and Historical Building, rare items from both the Indiana Division’s Vault Collection and the Reference Division’s General Collection will be on display through May 2015. This display features sheet music composed for the Indianapolis stop of the Lincoln funeral cortege, a poetry collection, and first edition publications from 1865, all suitable memorial tributes to the assassinated president.

Since its creation in 1825, the Indiana State Library has continuously collected books about Indiana history, culture, people, and many more topics. Accordingly, the library owns countless books written about all aspects of Abraham Lincoln’s life from his childhood to his presidency. How our nation mourned his tragic death was recorded in various forms, with the items described in this post representing a sampling of the sentiments in those immediate days and months.

An especially unique item on display is sheet music of “Lincoln’s Funeral March,” composed by Charles Hess. According to the Monday, May 1, 1865 issue of the Daily State Sentinel newspaper, when Lincoln’s body arrived at Indianapolis’ Union Station on Sunday, April 30, 1865, the city band played a sad and sorrowful dirge. The dirge was “Lincoln’s Funeral March,” a piece composed expressly for the occasion by Charles Hess of Cincinnati. The Indiana State Library’s copy of this music was digitized and added to the online collection, IN Harmony: Sheet Music from Indiana. The original print copy remains part of ISL’s Indiana Pamphlet Collection [Ind. Pam. q 780.8 Hess]. Various Lincoln funeral marches were composed around the country.

View the digital copy of Hess’ tribute to Lincoln at IN Harmony:

Also included in the display, a first edition, Memorial Record of the Nation’s Tribute to Abraham Lincoln by Benjamin Franklin Morris, 1865, is illustrated and includes a frontispiece portrait and a plan of the Oakridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois showing the place reserved for Lincoln’s burial. Early chapters in the book are entitled, “The President’s Last Day on Earth” and “Threat of Assassination.” Indiana’s entry in the section “Tributes of the States” appears on pages 134-135. It records a message of Saturday, April 15, 1865 from Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton requesting “the citizens of Indianapolis, in testimony of their profound sorrow, to close their places of business and assemble in the State House Square at 12 o’clock, noon, to-day, to give expression to their sentiments over this great national calamity.” Accounts of “Funeral Honors at Indianapolis” and the Funeral Train’s journey onto Lafayette and Michigan City to Chicago are included within pages 196-201. This volume is decoratively lettered in gilt on the cover. The Indiana State Library is fortunate to have two copies, one in the Indiana Collection [ISLI 923 L736mr], the other in the General Collection [ISLM E457.52 .M87].

View the digital copy at Internet Archive:

Another book created during this period of mourning was Poetical Tributes to the Memory of Abraham Lincoln, published by J.B. Lippincott & Company in 1865. There are two copies of this book in ISL’s General Collection [ISLM E457.9 .P74]. The copy displayed closed has its original binding with decorative gilt on the cover. According to Charles Henry Hart’s 1870 book, Bibliographia Lincolniana, 1,500 copies of the first edition were printed. The New York Times carried a review of this poetry collection in the November 13, 1865 issue:

“The idea was a happy one, to combine in a single volume the scattered voices of song, called forth spontaneously by the fate of our martyr President. It has been well carried out by the editor, Mr. N. Klotts, who has assembled an anthology to which many of the more respected names in our literature are contributors. Bryant, Dr. O.W. Holmes, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, E.C. Stedman, H.T. Tuckerman, R.H. Stoddard, R.S. Willis, Phoebe and Alice Carey are authors of some of the choicest poems in the volume, others by unknown hands compete nobly for the poet’s wreath in words of natural feeling that the great catastrophe they relate to, called forth from men of all sects, parties, and opinions. The volume is beautifully printed on tinted paper and is embellished with a steel portrait of Lincoln. No other work published comes into competition with the ‘Tributes,’ while at the same time it is indispensable as the finish and complement of all the books that relate to the scenes it describes.”

View the digital copy at Internet Archive:

Among the high-profile contributors of poetical tributes was Richard Storrs Willis. An American composer of hymn music, Willis was probably best known for writing the music to the poem-turned-Christmas carol, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” in 1849. Fittingly, his 1865 poetical tribute to Lincoln reads much like a song from a hymnal.

Julia Ward Howe was an abolitionist, activist, poet, and author of the lyrics to the “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which she was inspired to write after visiting Washington D.C. in November of 1861 and meeting President Lincoln. “The Battle Hymn” lyrics are meant to be sung to the tune of the Union army marching song, “John Brown’s Body.” Howe’s poetical tribute to Lincoln appears after Richard Storrs Willis’, on pages 15-16.

The final item described in this post is a copy of George Bancroft’s Memorial Address on the Life and Character of Abraham Lincoln, Delivered, at the Request of Both Houses of the Congress of America, before Them, in the House of Representatives at Washington, on the 12th of February, 1866. An American historian and statesman, George Bancroft served as U.S. Secretary of the Navy, establishing the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1845. He was a senior American diplomat in Europe. In April 1864, at Bancroft’s request, President Lincoln wrote out what would become the fourth of five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address.

Bancroft’s attention to documentation is evident in the text of his 1866 memorial address to Congress. The publication includes an appendix that details the events of 1865 through 1866 and includes transcripts of correspondence he exchanged while preparing for his Lincoln memorial oration. While this copy is cataloged in the Reference Division’s General Collection [ISLM E457.8 .B215], it could be considered part of the Indiana State Library’s historical public documents collection, as it was printed by the Government Printing Office in Washington D.C.

View the digital copy at Internet Archive:

To learn more about the Lincoln funeral train, which arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday morning, April 30, 1865, read the pre-planning and anticipatory events as reported in the Saturday, April 29, 1865 issue of the Daily State Sentinel. The accounts of Sunday’s ceremonies at the Indiana State House to honor Lincoln were reported in the Monday, May 1, 1865 issue of the Daily State Sentinel. These digitized historical newspapers are part of the Hoosier State Chronicles online collection, a project of the Indiana State Library, and part of the National Digital Newspaper Program.

[Editor’s Note: You can see more Lincoln items from the State Library collection on exhibit in the Indiana State House at the anniversary event tomorrow at 11am!]

Andrea Glenn is a Librarian and State Documents Coordinator in the Indiana Division of the Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana Division at (317) 232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at